Not that anyone will be driving the 2015 Nissan Murano to Mars anytime soon, but its ultra-comfortable seats — front and rear — were inspired by NASA and actually developed in a weightless environment.
They’re called “zero-gravity seats” and are based on a NASA-measured “neutral posture.” That’s believed to be the body’s perfect position while in a weightless state. What Nissan did was try to replicate that positioning with the contour of Murano’s seats, plus add an extra support point for your bottom.
The result, I’ll admit, is impressive. No one will feel like they’re weightless, but the seats are comfortable yet supportive, especially for the lower and mid back. Changing the seat structure, Nissan says, enhances comfort and reduces fatigue during long drives.
Also futuristic is the new look of this third-generation midsize crossover as it launches into 2015 with a rounded nose and “floating roof.” In more practical terms, Murano is bigger inside and out this year and still manages a 20 percent improvement in fuel economy.
It gets a sleeker look with its sculpted sides and flared fenders in the rear. Wrap-around lights in front, bulging taillights and a sloping roofline add an element of action. The floating-roof illusion is created by black exterior trim along the pillars.
Power comes to the front wheels from Nissan’s old-faithful 3.5-liter V-6, which is good for 260 horses and 240 pound-feet of torque. It’s delivered via a continuously variable transmission with Nissan’s new D-Step Shift feature, which fakes shifts for those who are wary of CVTs and feel like it isn’t shifting.
As reliable as the powerplant may be, exciting it is not. Getting from here to there is no problem, of course, but the acceleration is mediocre and the fun factor is, well … good luck finding it. That said, Murano has a solid feel and the suspension offers good comfort while gobbling up the imperfections in the road. It also offers decent steering feedback and it corners with only moderate lean.
An all-wheel-drive system is available for $1,600.
One thing everyone will appreciate is the dramatic improvement in fuel economy: an estimated 21 mpg around town, 28 on the highway, for a combined average 24 in both the 2WD and 4WD. That’s up from 20 mpg last year.
Nissan says a tip of the hat goes to engineers who spent tireless hours with the Murano design in wind tunnels, working to make it more streamlined and reduce drag.
It also translates to a quieter ride inside. Add laminated acoustic glass and Murano offers one of the quietest rides in the segment. Perhaps that’s why the marketing folks say the empty-nesters, now free of the rapscallions, are migrating to this model from the SUVs.
The interior is a bit more elegant, too, with perforated leather seats. Panels are fitted well and surfaces are soft to the touch.
The instrument panel is a full-color screen that can be customized for driving and the auto information that you want. An 8-inch touchscreen with navigation and backup camera can be expanded or reduced with finger swipes like on smartphones.
While zero-gravity seats make backsides more comfy, Murano passengers will also find ample headroom, shoulder space and legroom. A console between the front seats has plenty of depth for a laptop.
And, with the Murano at 2.5 inches longer and wider, too, cargo space grows by nearly 8 cubic feet. That adds up to 39.6 cubic feet behind the second row, and nearly 70 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded flat.
Murano gets all the usual air bags and traction/stability controls. Step up to the SL and Platinum versions and get blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and a 360-degree camera that alerts for any moving object around the vehicle.
Optional is adaptive cruise control with forward-collision warning and emergency braking. Nissan bailed on the lane-departure warning because so few apparently find it useful.
Murano has four trim levels but the base S is well equipped, with alloy wheels, tilt/telescoping steering wheel and an electronics package with Bluetooth, 7-inch touchscreen with rear-view camera and smartphone-app integration. The SV adds navigation, roof rails, 8-way power seats and an optional panoramic sunroof and 9-speaker Bose audio system.
The SL gets all that plus driver leather seats with memory settings, power liftgate, ambient lighting and the safety technology mentioned above. And the top-line Platinum adds 20-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and heated seats all around.
So where does all this leave us? Well, if it’s a fun ride you seek — or just some freedom of choice in powerplants — there are some others you may want to consider, like the Ford Edge, Volkswagen Toureg or Jeep Grand Cherokee. But if sleek looks, an ultra-comfortable and quiet ride are the top priorities, you might find the 2015 Murano and its zero-gravity seats, well, out of this world.
2015 Nissan Murano SL
Base price: $36,950
As tested: $39,210 (includes Tech Package, a $2,260 option)